1921 November 13

New York Police Halt Birth Control Meeting at Town Hall


On this day, New York City police halted the first national birth control conference in the U.S., then being held at Town Hall in New York.  (See the separate entry for November 11, 1921 for the opening of the conference.) Margaret Sanger had arranged for Patrick Cox, a former member of the British Parliament, to be among the speakers. Before he could speak, however, he was grabbed by New York City police officers and forcibly removed from the stage. The police also forcibly took Sanger from the stage, and she was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. The police officers stated that they were acting at the request of Catholic Archbishop Patrick Hayes. Members of the audience protested and then began singing My Country Tis of Thee.

Five days later, on November 18, 1921, Sanger gave the speech, “The Morality of Birth Control,” that had been cancelled on this day.

The incident on this day was one of many such events in New York and other cities in the 1920s and 1930s, where mayors or the police prevented public discussions of birth control. See, for example, the night of April 29, 1929 when Boston Mayor James Curley banned Margaret Sanger from speaking in the city, and she appeared on stage with a gag over her mouth.

Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. on October 16, 1916. A week later she was arrested, and in 1917 she was convicted and sentenced to one month in jail. Sanger’s organization eventually became Planned Parenthood.

Read: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)

Learn about the long history of birth control: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=18&compID=53

Visit today’s Planned Parenthood here.

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